The Sabres Observer
I don’t know what’s riskier, walking on the Sabres logo in the locker room or bringing a negative vibe to any conversation involving this team in the midst of its playoff-bound bliss, but I’m going to walk a fine line with the latter while looking at the big picture here.
If I’m Darcy Regier or Lindy Ruff, the first thought to cross my mind when picturing this team in late April without Jordan Leopold is the ugly 0-19 power play drought that cost the Sabres a playoff series against Boston last spring. That may be overplaying it, but in my opinion not by much.
With Leopold suffering a hand injury that will keep him out for the rest of the regular season and possibly longer, you have to wonder if the Sabres will want to take another peek at Marc-Andre Gragnani, who has been breaking scoring records down in Portland (AHL).
The Sabres have picked a good time to resolve their issues on home ice. After last night’s 4-2 win over Florida, thanks in large part to a big night for Drew Stafford (2 goals, 1 assist), Buffalo is on a 5-1-2 run at home.
Tonight the Sabres are back at it again as the New Jersey Devils invade HSBC Arena. A week or two ago there was the potential for this to be a spotlight game, but that’s not the case now. Even a Devils win tonight would still leave them eight points out of 8th in the East. Ilya Kovalchuk brought out the concession speech in front of the media last night:
“If Buffalo wins [vs. Florida], I think we’re done,” Kovalchuk said following Friday’s 1-0 shootout loss in Pittsburgh. “Still, we’ve got to play for pride for our fans. Just make a push and feel better for next year.”
There was some good pace to much of last night’s game vs. the Panthers, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see a low scoring defensive battle tonight. To be honest, Buffalo and New Jersey have played some real snoozers over the past few years. But with playoff fever ramping up here, the Sabres will gladly forsake style points for standings points.
Update 10:52 am: Colin White and Anton Volchenkov both doubtful for the Devils tonight
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The Buffalo Sabres community said goodbye to former French Connection member Rick Martin today at HSBC Arena. Speakers at the public memorial service included former linemates Gilbert Perreault and Rene Robert, play-by-play man Rick Jeanneret, and a few of Martin’s family members.
Sabres play-by-play man Rick Jeanneret shared some of his personal stories of the former Sabres great. A video tribute, filled with Martin memories from former teammates, members of the Sabres staff and others was played.
more, with plenty of video.
From Darren Dreger of TSN,
Explaining why the Sabres play so many back to backs is somewhat complicated according to the NHL, although geography and the team’s request to maximize the number of weekend and holiday home games are said to be key contributors.
Buffalo leads the NHL with the most home weekend games (90 over past four years) which is clearly an advantage for the organziation, plus commitments to national broadcast partners specific to the Sabres divisional rivals, Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa area also factors into the scheduling equation.
more, including Sabres stats in back to back games this season, plus the NHL’s preparations for the Bruins-Habs rematch tomorrow
On behalf of all Sabres followers, Mr. Gerbe, we apologize for doubting you. Your performance in Buffalo’s 2-0 win last night in Montreal was the clincher. All we can talk about today is your herculean effort that produced the empty net goal (1:10 of the video) that put the game away.
In our defense, not all of the pessimism surrounding the potential of your career was our fault. Early on, you were given plenty of chances but things didn’t really seem to be working out.
In many ways, however, we’re equally to blame.
Right after the Sabres blew a 3-1 lead with 2 ½ minutes remaining and proceeded to lose in overtime to Nashville last night, a brief and semi-cryptic comment of mine aggravated some puckheads in the twitterverse to the point of giving me the unfollow treatment. An equal number of folks in agreement with me partially sustained my faith in hockey humankind.
My deserters were angry Sabres fans with a misguided notion that Ryan Miller not playing at a Vezina Trophy winning level translates to him being the problem for Buffalo in 2010-11. Despite Sunday’s two deflected goals and ugly defensive miscues, Miller received some blame that he didn’t deserve.
What happened in this game should not have been a surprise to anyone who has watched this team enough to have a clear understanding of its most glaring weakness. In a nutshell, the Sabres dominated the Predators for most of 58 minutes, before gaffes by Andrej Sekera and Tyler Myers snatched a Buffalo defeat from the jaws of what should have been their 22nd victory in 36 games.
The game tonight with the most impact on the Eastern Conference playoff picture is probably the Atlanta/Buffalo game at HSBC Arena. Considering that they’re four points behind the 8th place Sabres, the Thrashers should be a pretty desperate bunch.
This will be yet another chance for Buffalo to cripple the playoff chances of a close pursuer. They missed opportunites to kick the Maple Leafs and Hurricanes to the curb despite playing pretty well in those games. Lindy Ruff’s comments, per the Sabres web site:
“The message is we’ve put together a good run and now, really, this last stretch is the type of run where we’ve got to put together a good segment of hockey. We missed some good opportunities in the Carolina game, we missed some good opportunities in the Toronto game. We’re playing hard, we just didn’t capitalize on some great offensive situations that put us behind the eight ball in the Carolina game.”
As Buffalo has struggled at home this season (15-16-3), we’ve been hearing the typical “We’re trying too hard to put on a show” response from some of the players. But this is the stage of the season where even a 2-1 snoozefest would send their fans home happy. These games are just too important.
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The Sabres have invited every member of the team’s Alumni to join them in Buffalo for [the April 8th] game. Every former player that attends will be part of a pre-game Party in the Plaza red carpet event outside HSBC Arena from 5-7 p.m. Alumni will be dropped off at the red carpet in a car from their era, and will be available for autographs and pictures as they walk into the arena.
From The Portland Press Herald,
While rewriting portions of the Portland Pirates’ record book, defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani is building a great resume for winning a job in the NHL.
Gragnani, who turned 24 last Friday, last weekend established team records for most points (54) and most assists (43) in a season by a defenseman.
“He has the ability to dominate both ways if he really puts his mind to it. He’s been more conscious of it.” - Portland (AHL) assistant coach Eric Weinrich
It’s funny how Cam Ward’s name is typically mentioned when people argue that you can win a Stanley Cup without an elite goaltender. From Buffalo’s perspective, he’s been about as tough to beat as they come.
Last night Ward pitched a 40-save shutout at HSBC Arena. About two weeks earlier, he was solid in a 3-2 Hurricanes overtime win over Buffalo at the RBC Center. You have to wonder to what extent he’ll be in the heads of the Sabres forwards when they meet again in a possible playoff berth-clinching game in Carolina on April 3.
In the big picture, though, it would be shortsighted to rail on the Sabres for losing in their 9th game in 15 days. That stretch included road wins against teams backstopped by Tim Thomas and Henrik Lundqvist, so fans and media stating that this team can’t beat the league’s prime time netminders might want to put that card back into the deck.
The Sabres will be idle until they start a stretch of three games in four nights this Saturday at home against Atlanta. Contrary to what will be popular opinion in Buffalo, I wouldn’t be the least bit upset if Ryan Miller started all three of those games.
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About The Sabres Observer
Dave Davis has covered the Buffalo Sabres for various NHL accredited websites and newspapers since 2003. He was the senior writer and Sabres correspondent for The Fourth Period, covered hockey for Western New York Sports and Leisure Magazine, and has had articles featured on NHL.com, FOX Sports, Yahoo Sports and in New York Sportscene. Sabres news and notes can be found on his Twitter page.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: [@DaveDavisHockey]